Matt Niswonger

By Matt Niswonger

In January of 2018 photographer Trent Stevens got an offer he couldn’t refuse: a spot on a boat during the largest Mavericks swell in years. “Though terrified because of the storm and huge seas, I knew that if I didn’t make it out there that day I would regret it for a lifetime.” As they motored out into the channel, Stevens pointed his lens towards an incoming fifty foot wave. As he started the video, little did he know an even larger wave was looming just outside. In the next few minutes he captured the legendary big wave in rare form, and the ensuing human carnage went viral as soon as it was posted on Instagram. Here is the full edit, set to music for the first time in what is possibly the most raw and compelling Mavericks footage seen to date.

For the world’s bravest surfers the only authentic reaction is dread and horror as they paddle out to meet their fate during a swell of this magnitude. Still, they cannot resist the siren call of California’s most infamous big wave and a chance to join a select club of athletes who can say they have ridden a Mavericks monster and lived to tell the tale. From this tribe of warriors an even more select group of elite competitors will be invited to compete in the first ever Mavericks Challenge hosted by the World Surf League. Despite a history of false starts and logistical snafus, it appears the stars may line up for a legitimate big wave contest for the 2018/2019 season as the WSL clears it’s final hurdles and eagerly awaits the official green light to open the contest window for this season starting November first.

Approaching this opportunity with a higher level of integrity than previous contest organizers, on September 5th the WSL announced an equal prize purse for male and female competitors at all WSL controlled events. This will include the Mavericks Challenge to be held this winter at the spectacular big wave break in Half Moon Bay.

The WSL’s next move is to get clearance at the State Land Commission’s next meeting, scheduled for October 18th. This will hopefully result in a necessary permit for the Mavericks contest window to open November first, running through March 15th. Under the new format, there will be two five-woman semifinal heats and a final, sandwiched around the men’s heats on contest day. It shouldn’t be long before the entry list and prize money are revealed. This isn’t a big-money sport — the winner’s prize for both men and women isn’t expected to be more than $25,000 — but at least there will be equality.

For Trent Stevens, all of this adds up to another chance to get up close and personal with one of the world’s most inspiring natural phenomena. Living in Ventura and spending his days in the water when not working at Patagonia, he eagerly awaits the coming winter season as he explained in issue #103. Unlike last year, this time he plans on being fully prepared once the contest window opens. Last year, when he stepped on the boat he didn’t even have a lifejacket. This year his bags will be packed and ready to go with all necessary safety gear. Reflecting back on his crazy year he notes that the stakes have been raised. “Really it’s the fear of death that drives me,” he says. “Not death in the sense of drowning, but fear of lost opportunity in the constant march of time that is coming for us all.”